Sunday, October 4, 2009

Bald Mountain Night 4: The Wicker Man

Each day in October, intrepid blogger Alex Boivin will watch a horror movie. These movies are all new to him and are part of his month-long effort to fill in his gaps in the horror canon. If he doesn't die from fright, you just might get to read about about his exploits in cinema during the Halloween season.

Horror movies come in all shapes and sizes. Some are gory and terrifying, some are psychological and spooky, and some are just plain weird. 1973's The Wicker Man falls into the latter category.

Wicker Man, this is the original mind you, not the bizarre Nicolas Cage remake, doesn't really fit into many horror subgenres. Whatever category you could shoehorn it into would probably be based almost entirely around its plot, the best way to phrase this one might be the "outsider goes to a remote village that's run by a creepy cult" genre. In terms of tone and content this one might be singularly unique, helped along by the fact that the movie is also a musical- a folk musical. We have scenes of our hero searching for a missing girl interspersed with Celtic folk ditties about the human reproductive system. We've all seen plenty of movies like this before, right? C'mon, Hollwood (or whatever they have in Britain), give us something new!

Devout Christian Sergeant Howie (Edward Woodward) arrives on Summerisle from the mainland in search of young Rowan Morrison. The routine missing persons case becomes more and more alarming when Howie learns about the island's pagan religious practices and its unsettling leader Lord Summerisle (the always welcome SIR Christopher Lee). There's nothing especially disturbing about a prudish cop running around a Scottish village being menaced by people dressed like the Beatles from Magical Mystery Tour, but the film does a great job of communicating just how bizarre this isolated island community is and making us the audience feel Howie's sense of isolation and paranoia as his outsider status becomes more and more pronounced the more he uncovers about the island's traditions. I really can't go into more without violating spoiler code but if you don't already know the ending to this one, it's all there in the title.

While not an all out scare-fest, Wicker Man certainly displays merits elsewhere. Woodward's lead performance is commendable and Lee displays only more of the reasoning behind his status as an icon of horror cinema. The movie may not be as scary as some of I'll be watching this month but it certainly ranks among the most noteworthy and memorable and gosh darn if the final scene doesn't stay with you.

Kind of like this:

Final verdict: 82 Congos